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Knuffle Bunny Too

by Mo Willems

Summary

Knuffle Bunny Too concerns a stuffed animal mix-up that prompts questions about the concepts of knowledge and ownership.

Trixie is particularly excited about taking her beloved Knuffle Bunny to class and showing it off to her friends. The next morning, Trixie sees Sonja holding an identical bunny in her arms. Their teacher, Ms. Greengrove, takes away the bunnies to prevent an argument between Trixie and Sonya and returns them at the end of the day. Unfortunately, during this process, the bunnies get mixed up. What will happen when Trixie and Sonja realize they have each other’s bunnies?

Read aloud video by Mr. Paulson

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

Knuffle Bunny Too is a light-hearted mock-tragedy about a stuffed toy mix-up. At the heart of the story’s central dilemma—where Trixie realizes that the bunny in her hand isn’t the bunny she left home with in the morning—lie crucial philosophical questions about property, ownership, and knowledge.

In our story, Trixie and Sonja’s bunnies share the same physical form of a bunny, but something is apparently different about them, which makes Trixie realize that the bunny she has is “not hers.” Why is it important that the bunny be hers, especially if the two bunnies look exactly the same? How does she know? Children, who have undoubtedly owned some toy in their lives, will be able to relate with Trixie. However, the rules governing personal spaces have not fully been incorporated into their world yet in the way they have with adults’. Children still have to be told what they can and can’t touch and use, and are going through processes that result in them owning things like presents and everyday items. Therefore, they will be able to think about why property matters and how it comes about. Does it have to be earned? Does there have to be an agreement?

We can begin by asking them if they think it was important for Trixie to get her bunny back. If they answer yes, we can question the nature of ownership and how it comes about. Philosophers have suggested several possibilities and restrictions; we know something belongs to someone because they use it until it is exhausted; we know someone owns something because they earned it; ownership has to be given by someone else (such as gifts); ownership is the result of social contracts. How do children understand this? At what point can they can say they ‘own’ something? Can this change with time? If ownership is earned, then what about things like gifts or money we might find lying on the street? All these possibilities also include the question of consent, which will be an exercise in reflecting upon social relationships for the children. Ownership is not agreed upon simply by the person who claims that ownership. Everyone else has to be on the same page so that the objects are treated in a certain way. What if everybody, including Sonja, told Trixie that bunny was hers? Who determines consent? Is it even important?

Furthermore, why is it even important to own things? Do they help us do anything better, are they there to make life convenient, or are they part of who we are? And is it only concrete objects like bunnies, houses, and food that can be owned? What about the sky, or thoughts or ideas?

Philosophically speaking, the question of which bunny belongs to whom is also a question of self- and social- definition. Associations and meaning-making, which are the results of experience, determine how we are connected to things. An important thread of this discussion, therefore, necessitates exploration into the nature of knowledge: How did Trixie know the bunny in her hand wasn’t hers? Were there tea stains or loose threads coming out of Trixie’s bunny that made it different from Sonja’s? What if both the bunnies were brand new? Does meaning-making differ with each bunny? John Locke said that experience is a result of sensory perception; what we experience in the world informs what we know about it. Perhaps Trixie’s ‘knowledge’ that a certain bunny was hers came from her experience of playing with it, holding it and getting comfortable with the feel of it. If so, how did Trixie’s experience with her bunny also affect her ideas of possessing it? Children may think about their own personal connections with objects in their life here, and consider how those objects might mean something different without those meanings. Experience affects what we know about something, including whether or not we own it.

Therefore, Knuffle Bunny Too makes for an interesting discussion in epistemology. In a world where possessions are highly valued, Trixie’s bunny can prove to be an important metaphor in understanding these relationships between property, ownership, and knowledge.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Property Ownership

  1. How do you think Trixie got her bunny?
  2. If her parents gave it to her, can we say it belonged to her parents?
  3. Do you think it was important for Trixie to get her bunny back? Why or why not?
  4. Think of something you own. What makes you its owner? Does it have to be earned? Given to you?
  5. If we find something, how can we figure out who it belongs to? Is it important to give it back?
  6. How can something stop belonging to someone?
  7. Why is it important to own things? What purpose does ownership serve?
  8. Is it possible to not own anything?
  9. Can non-physical things like thoughts and ideas also be owned? How would we know?

Consent and ownership

  1. Could Trixie and Sonja both have owned the same bunny? Why or why not?
  2. Can you own something if no one else agrees that you own it? Why or why not?
  3. Can something be owned by everyone?
  4. Who owns the sky? The earth? Can you own them? Why or why not?
  5. What about something you find lying on the ground? Who does that belong to?

Knowledge and Experience

  1. How does Trixie know that Sonja’s bunny is not her bunny?
  2. If you were Trixie’s dad, would you know the bunny wasn’t Trixie’s? What would Trixie say that might prove it to you?
  3. How do you know something is not yours if it doesn’t look any different?
  4. How might Trixie feel about the bunny if she was older? Would she want it back?
  5. Aside from looking, is there a way of knowing what something is or isn’t? Can you think of some examples?

Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Sadia Khatri. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.

Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our Resources page.

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Back to All Books Illustrated book cover for Mo Willems' book Knuffle Bunny Too featuring a school-age girl holding her stuffed bunny. She is walking down the street with her father. She is wearing a colorfully patterned outfit and smiling. Download & Print Email Book Module

About the Prindle Institute

As one of the largest collegiate ethics institutes in the country, the Prindle Institute for Ethics’ uniquely robust national outreach mission serves DePauw students, faculty and staff; academics and scholars throughout the United States and in the international community; life-long learners; and the Greencastle community in a variety of ways. In 2019, the Prindle Institute partrnered with Thomas Wartenberg and became the digital home of his Teaching Children Philosophy discussion guides.

Further Resources

Some of the books on this site may contain characterizations or illustrations that are culturally insensitive or inaccurate. We encourage educators to visit the Association for Library Service to Children’s resource guide for talking to children about issues of race and culture in literature. They also have a guide for navigating tough conversations.  PBS Kids’ set of resources for talking to young children about race and racism might also be useful for educators.

Philosophy often deals with big questions like the existence of a higher power or death. Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our resources page.

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